Based across New-York and San Francisco, DJ and producer atish is renowned for his varied emotive experiences during sets and releases on prestigious imprints including Anjunadeep, Kindisch and Stil Vor Talent.
Manjumasi label boss atish has also hosted sell-out shows with his own party series – Late Night Tonite, leading him to his recently announced ‘Atish All Night’ tour around the United States.
We caught up with Atish to hear about his new release ‘Warbler’ with remixes from Dorisburg, Rodriguez Jr and Fort Romeau on his Manjumasi imprint, as well as his newly announced tour and what it’s like to be a label founder.
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That moment when the beat drops and everyone yells “WOO” at the same time. That put a smile on my face. At first I thought that was part of the recording, I had to go back and check. I always love playing San Francisco. Thanks for being such a supportive audience, that was a great gig! And thanks @areulisted and @permissiontolandsf for having me!
Hi atish, thanks for joining us. Can you tell us how your year has been and what it’s like to be the co-founder of Manjumasi?
Co-running Manjumasi with Mark Slee is great! At a high level, I enjoy scratching the curatorial DJ itch without having to step in a DJ booth. Building Manjumasi has been a great way for me to collaborate with artists I’ve idolised for years and invest in artists who I believe have potential. Overall I derive quite a bit of satisfaction from almost every angle of the process, except the financial one – nobody’s buying music, but I’m 100% ok with that.
Operationally, it’s a pleasure steering the ship with Mark. We’ve been collaborating on projects for 17 years, whether it was producing gangsta rap in his parents’ basement or writing satirical underground newspapers in high school. The history we’ve had as collaborators laid a strong foundation for us to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and sensibilities when it comes to daily operations.
Lastly, I think it’s really helpful that we both came from a corporate world before entering the label world. Corporate usually gets a bad name, but it’s really helped us develop systems to get things done with minimal fuss, so we can focus more on the fun stuff, like talking about music.
Your Manjumasi imprint launched in 2016 and has been charted by yourself and many other artists over the years. Are there any accomplishments from this year you would like to mention, and are there any plans you have for your imprint going into 2020?
In 2019 we tried our hand at our first vinyl release with R. Fentz who is now known as Zacky. Ironically I don’t play vinyl anymore, so it was a bit of an experiment to see how much we enjoyed the process and how it would be received. Overall, I think I enjoyed it but I’d say we’re still in the experimentation phase. That being said, I think the biggest takeaway thus far is that we can use the vinyl releases as an avenue to really push ourselves out of the “deep house” box that people know us for.
In 2020 we have two more vinyl releases slated – an atmospheric/dub techno release from Swedish artist Birds of Paradise and a melodic minimal record from Ukranian Silat Beksi.
Your ‘Warbler’ release sees remixes from Dorisburg, Rodriguez Jr and Fort Romeau. Can you tell us some more about having these artists work on your EP? Why did you select them?
Landing all three of those remixers was just a total dream for me as they all touch a different vein of my musical journey and palette. In fact, the remixers are so representative of my musical identity and I derive as much satisfaction from them as the original tracks.
I remember the first time I heard the Dorisburg remix, my jaw was dropped the whole time I was listening. I’m a total fan boy of his, his music is mostly played in my studio mixes or after hours sets. We knew the Dorisburg remix wouldn’t be as dancefloor or chart-friendly as the Rodriguez Jr remix, but we still placed it first in the remixer tracklist because it represents where we are gradually taking the Manjumasi sound weirder, closer to leftfield and unpredictable. It was also a subtle way for us to mention to our audience that we’re not preoccupied with numbers or big names.
That being said, I was also very happy with the Rodriguez Jr remix. He’s probably one of my most played artists of all time, so it was really meaningful to me have him remix my own work. He is one of the few artists in the world that can write dance tracks that are so heavily melodic without being cheesy, it’s a very fine line to walk and I think he nailed it. It’s the track of the EP I play the most at gigs.
The Fort Romeau remix represented an artist in-between Dorisburg and Rodriguez Jr. Edgy, but playable. Melodic, but not too “easy,” if that makes any sense. There are a few Fort Romeau tracks that never seem to leave my gig prep lists, so it felt fitting to get him involved in the project.
You’re renowned for your variation within your releases including emotive experiences and intimate atmospheres, Warbler sees a collection of different sounds with melodic styling to groove heaviness. What creative processes were used in the making of this incredible release?
I hope to one day reflect on my discography the same way I play many of my DJ sets, ranging different sounds, emotions, and intensities. I don’t like being put in any kind of artistic box. For both Warbler and Abyss I wanted to create music that has more of a sense of space that builds tension into chaos.
Funnily enough, both tunes also used an Ableton instrument called Tension that essentially lets you create stringed instruments that don’t exist in the real world, so I had fun with using that as the lead sound in both tunes and setting that as the overall motif of the EP. This was the first time I worked to have a motif on a release, and I enjoyed this creative constraint.
For Warbler, I was listening to metal music before that studio session, so you might hear my high school influences in that dark main synth riff. The original version of Abyss was actually intended to be a dub techno track, which you can still trace in the bassline, but it eventually evolved into something much more lush and melodic. Abyss was also the result of me doing some light study on scale and chord theory, rather than approaching a track with the standard minor scale. I intentionally set out to constrain myself to the Dorian mode, in fact the working title of Abyss was Dorian pretty much until the last minute.
Can you give us three of the most influential records or labels that have impacted your creativity as an artist?
Andre Lodemann – Where Are You Now. A masterclass in arrangement, groove, and tension. A track that can be placed anywhere in a set. Something for me to aspire to. Timeless
Kompakt – One of the few labels with such a long history that hasn’t gotten stale. Every time I see a new Kompakt release, I don’t know what it’s going to sound like, but I know it’s going to be worth hearing. Again, something for me to try to aspire to with Manjumasi.
Kann Records – What I see as a template for what an “underground” label could/should be. Timeless, understated, sophisticated records. No big drops.
You have strong relationships with prestigious labels including Anjunadeep, Kindisch and Still Vor Talent where you hold releases. Have you experienced any ‘star’ moments in your career and what is it like to work with these imprints?
The closest thing I had to a star moment was having Nick Warren who is half of Way Out West, tell me that my remix of ‘Tuesday Maybe’ was one of the best remixes of his work that he’s heard. That was the first time I ever did a remix, so I was deeply terrified during the whole creative process. Compound all that by the immense respect I have for Nick and his history as an artist in our scene, I was smiling for days when he told me that. Also I had no idea why the hell Anjunadeep commissioned me to do that remix since I had no track record as a remixer either! I guess that’s why Anjuna is Anjuna.
You’ve had sell out shows in LA, New York and San Francisco, which leads us to mentioning your recently announced all night tour around the US. What can fans expect to see from you during your sets and are there any artists that will be joining you?
I pretty selfishly keep the Atish All Nights to just me start to close, since I think these sets really let me define my musical status quo, without being influenced by other artists on the lineup or the promoter’s musical sensibility. Atish All Nights definitely feel like the purest gigs for me artistically.
I’m incredibly lucky to have enough support for these events to sell out. This also means they are the purest experience from an audience perspective. The dance floor at Atish All nights has very few “clubbers” looking to party on a random night as opposed to people seeking out a particular shared experience, which is very powerful.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced in the music industry and how have you overcome these?
My biggest challenge in the music industry has been striking balance. It’s so easy to fully consume myself with work, especially because I so deeply love what I do. A few years ago, when things really started ramping up, I had lots of gig requests coming in, often with ridiculous travel schedules and it’s very hard to say no to gigs – I love playing and have worked so hard to get to the point of being in demand. But, any day it can all go away, so why squander these opportunities and take things for granted?
Over time, I have come to learn that every opportunity I take has a cost that’s not immediately visible. I sometimes paid the price with my sleep, eating, exercise routine, friendships, and overall mental health. So, I’m coming to learn that sometimes taking a gig is taking other things in my life for granted outside my career. I haven’t yet solved this problem, but I’m working on it every day.
Can you give us a couple of key pieces of advise you can give to newcomers?
You’ve probably heard this 1 million times, but this cannot be overstated, do not preoccupy yourself with what other artists are doing. Don’t compare yourself to others, don’t emulate others, don’t compete with others. These are guaranteed behaviors that will take you to a dark place. Find your own voice.
At the same time, I would say it’s important to be aware of what your peers are doing and to take inspiration from them. But make sure these actions occupy only a very small corner of your mind.
The second thing important piece of advice is to prioritize love over success. Regularly check in with yourself and question if you are in love with what you are doing as opposed to where you hope your work will get you X years from now. I think success is 51 percent luck, 49 percent hard work so there’s a reasonable chance that you won’t achieve what you were aiming for even if you do everything right. If you do miss the mark, at least you’ll be able to look back on your journey having loved and laughed the whole way through.
Also, when you are in love with what you’re doing, the audience can tell.
And finally have you got any major plans you would like to mention as a label owner, DJ and producer going into 2020?
In relation to the question above, I’m staying away from major plans and seeking incremental improvements in balancing everything I have going on. I’m very happy with life right now and most interested in tweaking a couple of parameters to maximize my happiness across all dimensions in life.
That’s really exciting to hear and we will keep an eye out for your ‘Atish All Night’ tour around the US. We can’t wait to hear from you again soon!
‘Warbler’ including remixes from Dorisburg, Rodriguez Jr & Fort Romeau is out now.
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